E-xclusivity: An Introduction to Selling Luxury

Retailing and Consumer Sciences Graduate Student Charles Lawry.
Retailing and Consumer Sciences Graduate Student Charles Lawry.
Ten years ago, luxury retailing was confined to sumptuous brick and mortar stores. The world's top designers built high-touch complexes that were the epitomes of sensory gratification. The Internet, at the time, was a plaything for the masses and luxury vendors feared that a mere web presence might dilute their exclusive brand images.

With the advent of counterfeit sellers and competition from aspirational labels who have seamlessly adopted e-commerce, the luxury industry can no longer scoff at the Internet, especially as a post-millennial, global recession fog still looms heavily. However, how can luxury firms sell elite goods online without hindering their rarefied brand images and without offending their exclusive clientele? As a starting point, luxury firms should focus on building initial trust and structural assurances online.

Initial trust is identified as trust in a website with whom a shopper has no prior experience. Most online luxury shoppers represent some form of initial trust (i.e. a first-time web visitor who has also been an avid brick and mortar patron). Structural assurances are guarantees or regulations that safeguard the consumer. They typically take the form of third party seals of approval, privacy statements, certificates of authenticity and web aesthetics. By including structural assurances on a website, consumers are more likely to trust a vendor and make an online purchase.

Currently, very few luxury websites include structural assurances aside from sophisticated aesthetics and privacy statements. By adding a digital certificate of authenticity to a luxury website, for example, the certificate would not only act as a reminder of the merchandise's authenticity, but also could attest to the craftsmanship that undergirds the luxury brand. Since only a select few brands would contain such digital certificates of authenticity, these certificates would also define the luxury label apart from counterfeit, private and aspirational labels.
Released date: 
Oct 28 2010